It couldn’t have been any more dramatic for Verona. The Gialloblu were 2-0 down to Cittadella after their playoff first leg but dramatically came back to win 3-0, securing themselves a place in Italy’s elite division. It had been a long season, but one that’s been worth the wait, especially as city rivals Chievo suffered relegation in turn. Now, as they look forward to their 29th season in Serie A, the Gialloblu will be wanting to assess how they can sustain their top-flight status
Ex-Verona striker Alfredo Aglietti took over from the sacked Fabio Grosso in early May and looked to be a choice from left field. His recent spells at Ascoli and Virtus Entella had been mixed to say the least, but here he was, back in Verona with the playoffs looming. His first game in charge saw him face Cittadella in early May, and the signs were perhaps not good as they crashed to a 3-0 defeat. After that, however, the club’s run of form improved towards the end of the campaign as they went on to beat Foggia.
The playoff quarter-finals saw them pull off a 4-1 victory over Perugia in extra time, before getting the better of Pescara over two legs. That momentum was built by the 48-year-old reverting to a more direct playing style, which differed to Grosso’s focus on possession. Despite being a relative youngster in coaching terms, Aglietti is already in his 11th coaching position, and the experience he gained from those roles has allowed him to at least know how to do the basics right. He has shown to be forthright and someone who doesn’t tinker with his team too much.
The games against Cittadella highlighted how the will of Verona and the support of their fan base combined to produce a piece of calcio history. Goals from Mattia Zaccagni, Samuel Di Carmine and Karim Laribi sealed the win. As Scottish midfielder Liam Henderson aptly put it, ‘Serie A baby! What a day, what a team.’ The Veronese have since been basking in their glory, but just how capable are last season’s fifth-placed Serie B team of staying up?
Forget Tim Parks’ book, ‘A Season with Verona’. Forget the passion of their fans, forget Osvaldo Bagnoli and forget the side’s 1985 Scudetto triumph. They may all be reasons that people adore Hellas, but they will not help the club’s cause next season. If fellow promoted sides Brescia and Lecce have mountains to climb then Verona really have it all to do.
In Serie B last season, their record looked like one of a team who could have finished lower than 15th, with thirteen wins, 13 draws and 10 defeats. They didn’t disgrace themselves with the 46 goals conceded or the 49 they scored, yet Serie B always throws up bizarre statistics - Venezia in 14th conceded 46, whereas Cremonese finished ninth scoring 37. The Coach, while having had a good May since taking over and arguably earning his chance, has no experience at the top level and his overall record doesn’t make for pretty reading.
Finally, there will need to be some clever moves when adding to the playing staff. While it will be interesting to see how the likes of Henderson, former Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini and ex-Barcelona attacker Lee Seung-woo fare in the top tier, several of their promotion heroes need tying down. Di Carmine scored 11 goals but is only on loan from Perugia, as are Samuel Gustafson, Ryder Matos, Antonio Di Gaudio, Luca Marrone and Davide Faraoni.
Hellas are certainly back with a bang and their return to Serie A is also a win for the romantics. There will be a lot to do for President Maurizio Setti and his board to do this summer, and the work they put in will be crucial to Verona’s chances of survival at the first time of asking. Until then, it’s a case of ‘Serie A baby’.